23 June 2008

16 upwards.........

As I was approaching 16 years of age, there was discussion of what I would do when I left school. It was advised that I should attend a residential college, for youngsters with disabilities, in Nottingham. From the start I was dead set against the idea, as I wasn't happy at the thought of being away home and my friends. In the end I agreed to visit the college in Nottingham for an initial 5 day assessment. I travelled up to Nottingham by train. The journey took a few hours, and I was very anxious. We arrived late afternoon, and once formalities were over, it was time for an evening meal. I hated the place from the start and couldn't wait to get home. Each day I attended lessons, but didn't enjoy one minute of my stay. Of course I was offered a place to become a student, but I flatly refused to accept. The whole experience made me feel a great deal of resentment towards my disability. Why did I only have the option of going away from home to further my education. Was it because I was disabled!! I developed a hatred towards any kind of residential institution to do with disability. My view was, we should integrate not segregate.

It was my wish to go to a local college of Further Education. My wish was granted, and I enrolled at a college not to far away from home. I was to travel there each day by Mini Cab. Once I started my year long course, it wasn't all plain sailing. My fellow students were all able bodied. Most were very nice towards me, but a minor few made unkind remarks. After a few weeks I was transferred to a different course. I gained experience in office duties, such as typing, filing and letter writing layouts. I began thinking how I would love to apply for office jobs and work for a big company. Unfortunately, because I was a wheelchair user, at a mainstream college, there were no adapted facilities. I missed out on a lot of the course subjects, because half of my lessons were upstairs, and there was no lift available. I did try using the stairs, but this proved not be practical from a health and safety point of view. During the periods of not being able to participate in lessons, I had to sit in the college library. As I had covered only certain parts of course, I was unable to take the end of year of exam, so left without any formal qualification.

In my quest to go to work, and be a part of society, I set out typing a letter to employers. I gathered names and addresses out of telephone directories. It transpired that over the period of a couple of years, I sent nearly a thousand letters to prospective employers. I can still remember some of the big names I approached. IBM, British Telecoms, British Gas, Christian Aid, Ministry of Defence, Local hospitals, Metropolitan Police and so many more............... I got interviews, but reasons for not employing me ranged from, slow typing speed, inability to write by hand, inadequate speech for telephonist work and Fire risk, as well as unsuitable offices up a few stairs. By this time I was eighteen, and enjoying a good social life going out to pubs every weekend with friends. I was also enjoying holidays in Spain. But my failure to find employment resulted in me becoming very depressed. I became bitter that my disability placed restrictions on me, not allowing me to have a job.

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I don't think I've ever blamed my physical impairment for me not achieving all my goals. I've tended to blame the 'system' which often fails to enable me to be a fully participating member of society; thus rendering me disabled (ie unable). It would be good to live in a world that gives all of us equal chances at achieving realistic goals (ie a handicapped sytem as we have in horse racing). Until such systems are put in place successful integration is a fantacy and segregation (in education) is the best way to reach our full potential as staffing and facilities are geered towards extracting th best from individuals. It's a good thing that we can get into many public buildings in our towns, it's certainly makes us feel part of the human race! Your old friend, Sally